As many as 40 percent of the clients served by Esperanza, HOPE’s partner in the Dominican Republic (D.R.), come from Haiti. Lingering discrimination, as well as language barriers, can prevent Haitians from finding decent employment in the D.R., and immigrants are frequently marginalized or even taken advantage of.
In some communities, called bateyes, companies seek low-wage laborers to harvest sugarcane. The vast majority of these workers are of Haitian descent, leading to higher concentrations of immigrants. The back-breaking labor generates little income—but HOPE is at work in many of these communities. Small business loans and basic business training give many the opportunity they’ve been seeking.
Alejandro, a loan officer working with Esperanza in a batey community, has been moved by the plight of so many of his clients. Though Haitians are not highly regarded by most Dominicans, Alejandro believes that one way in which he can share God’s love with his clients is by learning their language. On his own time, he’s studying Creole in the hopes of building trust and establishing rapport.
What percent of your clients are of Haitian descent and speak Creole as their first language?
70 percent speak Creole, and approximately 60 percent of them were born in Haiti.
Why did you decide to learn to speak Creole?
I felt bad when my clients were speaking [Creole] and I didn’t understand them. It’s also a way to develop trust with [my clients].
Why is it important that you, as a loan officer, speak the native language of your clients?
This helps to build a more complete relationship between the loan officer and the client because I can interact with them directly … and they can approach me in trust and confidence.
How are you learning to speak Creole?
I am learning day by day through my interactions with my clients.
How have your clients responded to your desire to speak Creole? What does it mean to them?
It means a lot because it builds trust; their reaction has been one of amazement and trust.
How have your Haitian clients in the Dominican Republic been affected by last year’s earthquake in Haiti?
All of them have relatives in Haiti, and they were tremendously affected. Some lost loved ones or others they know.
Are there ways in which your clients have been able to help their relatives and friends who are still in Haiti?
Yes, they’ve helped by sending remittances. Some have even helped make arrangements for others to come to the Dominican Republic.